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Wednesday, 15 June 1904

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) - It seems to me that the honorable member for Fremantle, in discussing the question of the common rule as applied to districts, has overlooked the fact that a bond fide dispute, originating and having its sole existence in one district in one State, could not be brought before the Federal Court.

Mr Carpenter - I do not imagine that for. one moment.

Mr KELLY - The honorable member instanced the case of Western Australia, in which there are several industrial districts, and I think that one might almost infer from his remarks that a mapping out of the Commonwealth into industrial districts of a similar nature would meet with his approval. But I submit that it would be impossible for- the Federal Court to map out Australia into industrial districts, because its duty would be to adjudicate in the case of a dispute extending beyond the boundaries of any one State, and, of course, if a dispute did not so extend it would not be a bonâ fide one for a Commonwealth Court to 'settle. The proposal of the Government to amend the application of the common rule is certainly a modification of the original provision, and, therefore, it is greatly to be approved, but it does not go quite far enough. What is the proposal ? That instead of the Court declaring the common rule absolute, as it would have had to do under the previous Bill, and then allowing, the people who objected to its application going to the Court for relief, it is now proposed that the Court shall advertise in the Government Gazette the fact that the common rule will be made absolute after a certain time. There will be hundreds of persons in an industry to which the common rule is sought to be applied, who will naturally think that they ought not to be brought within its application, and the Court will be deluged with appeals, so that its business cannot be proceeded with.

Mr Hughes - That has not been the case in New South Wales, where a similar right exists.

Mr KELLY - I understand that there has been a number of appeals in that State.

Mr Hughes - I do not know of any but two, and if the honorable member knows of any others, let us hear of them.

Mr KELLY - I am not able to speak from personal knowledge, but I know that in that State small disputes usually occupy the attention of the Court. For instance, in the first three months of this year there was not one new dispute of any magnitude heard, but only appeals arising from old disputes.

Mr Hughes - I do not know that.

Mr KELLY - I think that the honorable gentleman told us so last night.

Mr Hughes - I did not say that they were not heard ; I said that they were not settled.

Mr KELLY - What I meant to say was that no new case of any magnitude was settled during the first three or four months of this year, and that the Court was always engaged in re-hearing old troubles. "I would suggest to the Prime Minister that his proposal should include a provision for the notification, not only in the Gazette, but at every public building in the Commonwealth, of the fact that the common rule was intended to be applied to an industry. That is a more reasonable way of making the information known to the people.

Mr Hughes - Every hotel would be a good place.

Mr KELLY - I do not think that people there would perhaps quite realize what the common rule was. The honorable member for Darling argued that the larger an organization is, the less disposed are its members to strike or to cause trouble. But I would remind him that the most serious disturbance in. New South Wales since the creation of the Arbitration Court was caused by, perhaps, the most powerful, and certainly the largest union in the State. We are . asked to believe that the Shearers' Union did not strike. It certainly did not work.It formed strike camps, and behaved in a manner which suggested the existence of a strike, lt is hardly a fair argument to say that the size of a union precludes ils members from striking. Certainly, under this Bill it would not have any such effect, because a minority of the union or any number of men in a union could bring about a strike; it would not be necessary l.o get a majority of the union. I take it that if the common rule is meant to be applied in its wider aspect, it will be applied in industries in States which have not an Arbitration Court. Obviously that is interfering with the self-governing rights of the States, because each State has its own Government and Parliament, and the fact that three States have not so far adopted this arbitration principle, although it has been an object lesson to them in three other States, suggests that in their opinion it has either not been tried sufficiently long to be adopted by them, or that thev do not like it.

Mr Mcwilliams - The Arbitration Bill was defeated in the Tasmanian Assembly bv a majority of more than two to one, notwithstanding that the State franchise is the same as the Federal franchise.

Mr KELLY - That goes to bear out my contention. In view of the fact that the common rule might, in its application, interfere with the self-governing rights of the States, we should approach the question of its inclusion in this Bill -with the greatest' caution. Disputes, bona fide extending beyond the boundaries of a State will be very few, and I do not think it necessary to apply the common rule to all and sundry. For these reasons I shall support the amendment.

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